MONROE, La. -- After posting a FBS-era best eight wins during the regular season, ULM head football coach Todd Berry has been named the Sun Belt Conference's Coach of the Year, the league office in New Orleans announced today. Kolton Browning was selected as the SBC's Offensive Player of the Year, while Brent Leonard highlighted a group of eight Warhawks as he earned first team all-conference accolades.
Berry guided the Warhawks to an 8-4 record overall and the squad finished tied for second in the league standings at 6-2. The eight wins are the most since the 1993 season when ULM finished 9-3 in its final season at the FCS (1-AA) level. The Warhawks notched a five-game win streak this season, the longest such streak of the FBS-era.
Browning's Offensive Player of the Year award adds to a long list of honors received this season. Over the course of the 2012 season Browning has been honored with accolades such as: Davey O'Brien QB of the Week, Louisiana Offensive Player of the Week, Maxwell Award Watch List, Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week and Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week.
Browning, who earned second team all-conference honors, finished the regular season 252 of 389 for 2,830 yards. He finished with 27 touchdown passes compared to seven interceptions. The junior also rushed 122 times for 441 yards and seven touchdowns. Heading into the bowl season, Browning ranks second in the conference in total offense (297.4 ypg), third in passing (257.3 ypg) and fifth in passing efficiency (145.2). Among all NCAA FBS quarterbacks, Browning ranks 21st in total offense and 32nd in passing efficiency.
Leonard earned first-team honors after posting 97 receptions and 1,042 receiving yards in 2012. His 97 receptions are a ULM school record and he ranks third in the Sun Belt single-season record books. Meanwhile, his 1,042 receiving yards are a career-high and he is just the sixth ULM receiver to record 1,000 or more receiving yards in one season.
Leonard finished the regular season with 10 touchdowns and he is just the fifth ULM player to accomplish that feat. Among national leaders, Leonard ranks sixth in receptions per game and 30th in receiving yards per game. The senior is just two receptions shy of setting a new school record in career receptions. Leonard has 202 career receptions and trails only Mack Vincent, who totaled 203 receptions from 2000-03.
Aside from Browning's second team selection, four other Warhawks earned second team all-conference accolades. Offensive linemen Josh Allen and Jonathon Gill earned offensive honors, while safety Isaiah Newsome and linebacker R.J. Young earned defensive honors.
Both Allen and Gill started all 12 games this season and were part of the offense that amassed 500 or more yards of offense five times this season (Arkansas, 550; Baylor, 560; Tulane, 553; Middle Tennessee, 500; North Texas, 518). They also created rushing lanes for the Warhawk backfield as ULM totaled 200 or more yards on the ground in back-to-back games (Baylor, 262; Tulane, 222).
Newsome led the Warhawks with four interceptions during the regular season, while tallying 55 tackles (34 solo, 21 asst) with 1.5 tackles for loss. His four interceptions are tied for third in the Sun Belt and rank 25th nationally. Newsome's biggest interception of the season came in the conference opener at Middle Tennessee. The junior's interception with 8:25 remaining sealed the game for the Warhawks as the offense was able to run out the clock in the 31-17 win.
Young was the squad's leader in tackles during the regular season with 90 (46 solo, 44 asst). He tallied with 10.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and one interception. At the conclusion of the regular season, Young was tied for ninth in the conference in both tackles and tackles for loss. He posted a career-best 14 tackles against Baylor and matched that total against North Texas. His lone interception of the season came at Tulane and he returned it for 55 yards. His first career score came in the regular season finale at FIU as he returned a fumble for 36 yards to put the Warhawks in fron 17-10 late in the third quarter.
Ford finished the season with 47 total tackles (34 solo, 13 asst) and was tied for second on the team with 10.5 TFLs. He also recorded three sacks and three interceptions during his senior season. His biggest interception of the season came in the season opener against then-No. 8 Arkansas. Ford made a tremendous play along the sideline to halt Arkansas' final drive of regulation and send the contest into overtime.
Hamm finished his junior campaign with 58 receptions for 862 yards and six touchdowns. He finished the regular season ranked sixth in receiving yards per game (71.8) and eighth in receptions per game (4.8). His first career 100-yard receiving game came at Arkansas State as he tallied 102 yards on nine catches. A week later, against North Texas, he posted a new career-high with 119 yards on seven receptions and two scores.
ULM will make its first-ever bowl appearance on Dec. 28 when they battle Ohio in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. Kickoff at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., is slated for 1 p.m. and the game will air nationally on ESPN.